It may have taken 15 years but the Baltimore Orioles can finally call themselves a winning team once again.
With their 81st victory — and 13th in a row in extra innings — the Orioles are assured no worse than a .500 record for the first time since 1997.
Much of the team’s recent success is linked to 20-year-old rookie Manny Machado, who since getting called up from the minor leagues in August, has been instrumental in turning the team around.
The Miami-born ball player, who is of Dominican descent, came in for his team in the clutch for the second night in a row.
With an RBI single that eluded left fielder Matt Joyce's desperate dive with two outs in the 14th inning, Machado helped Baltimore beat Tampa Bay 3-2 Thursday to complete a three-game sweep and remain atop the AL East.
"I'm having a blast," Machado said. "This team is great to be around. It's a great group of guys. We're all excited. We're all having one goal, which is make the playoffs."
Manager Buck Showalter echoed Machado’s sentiments saying, "There's a bigger goal in mind."
Showalter continued, "That wasn't the goal from Day One this spring. Really, Day One of the offseason. It's watching other teams for years and saying, 'We want to do what they're doing. We'd like to get a chair at the dance, you know?'"
After briefly celebrating a victory that capped a 5-2 homestand against the Yankees and Rays, the Orioles packed in the clubhouse for a trip to Oakland.
"It makes that West Coast trip a little easier when you win," said closer Jim Johnson, part of a bullpen that kept Tampa Bay scoreless on four hits over the final 6 2-3 innings. "You can enjoy it for a little bit, the five hours you're on the flight, but that's about it."
It's been an incredible season for the Orioles, who finished in the cellar in each of the previous four years. Following Thursday’s victory, Baltimore remains in a first-place tie with the New York Yankees.
Sixteen pitchers took part in the game, which lasted 5 hours, 14 minutes. Tampa Bay used a club-record 26 players, including nine pitchers.
After the Orioles squandered a bases-loaded, no-out threat in the 13th, Chris Archer got the first two outs in the 14th before Adam Jones walked and Endy Chavez singled. Machado followed with a soft liner toward the line that Joyce trapped.
"I know it hit my glove on the bottom," Joyce said. "It was hard to tell what exactly happened. Only thing I can tell you is I didn't come up with it."
On Wednesday Machado had the game winning play as well when he scored a run in the bottom of the ninth.
Since August 3, around the same time Machado was brought up, the Orioles have won 14 of 19 overall.
The teams’ success in extras this season matches the longest in the majors since Cleveland won 13 straight extra-inning games in 1995.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.